Funeral Meditation at St. George's Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario for Katherine Mein, November 6, 1999

by Robert Brow    1999    (

I first met Kay 21 years ago when I became Rector or St. James' Church, Kingston. When she retired from her work at Queen' University, she began our cassette tape library of sermons. For the past ten years I have taken her out every few weeks to lunch at Aunt Lucy's. The last few times she had a cast on her foot and her hands were so crippled I had to cut up her food. She was one of the few people who laughed at my jokes and stories.

Two days before she died I visited her at Providence Manor. The first thing she said was "tell me a story." So I told her the story of the caterpillar which I will tell you in a moment. She said "I want you to come and tell me that story as I am dying." I am very sorry I wasn't there to do that. She just slipped away quietly.

For this final service I was told there is to be no sermon, just a story. So this is the story Kay wanted me to tell her just before she died. Many of you have heard it at funerals especially when children are present. But children love to hear a story again and again, and you have to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once upon a time there was a caterpillar. She lived on a branch and she spent her time crawling to the next leaf and chewing. What worried her was that one by one the friends and family she loved most dearly went into those awful cocoons and that was the end. She knew she would have do the same one day.

When she got very sick she was lying on her back looking up at the sky. She could see creatures with bright colored wings fluttering around the flowers in the garden. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to be free to fly like them." But she didn't know those glorious creatures were the very ones she loved so much before they went into those awful cocoons.

Finally she felt the coils of death tightening around her till she couldn't move. And then her mind went blank. Next thing she knew was that wings had grown from her shoulders. She took off, flew to a bright colored flower, and drank its nectar. It tasted so good after spending her life crawling and chewing leaves.

Why did Kay like that story so much? I am sure she identified with the coils of death wrapping themselves around her till she couldn't move a finger. Then there were the butterflies flying above her. They were those she had loved very much on earth and missed terribly.

In her last three or four months I saw her fighting fiercely against the loss of her freedom. At any price she wanted to keep some control over her life. Then in the last ten days I saw her yielding peacefully to death and resurrection. And I think the caterpillar story helped her see that her real freedom was about to be far greater than she had ever imagined.

I don't like the term resting in peace. I don't want to spend my time resting in heaven. There will be too much to experience and do. Kay isn't resting. She had enough of that unable to move on a hospital bed. Can you see her Kay fluttering around above us? She is already freed to do just what she enjoys the immense garden of heaven with those she loved very much? We just bury that poor old caterpillar.

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